Statement of Teaching Philosophy Rena Saito When I was a freshman in college, I heard many students complaining about their classes. Honestly, I was one of those students. Many professors in my introductory courses were good researchers, but not good teachers; they simply read lines from textbooks. During the rest of my undergraduate and graduate years, I had both good and bad classes. Differences between these classes were very obvious – I either enjoyed the class or not; professors or instructors played an important role in these differences. The teacher is responsible for teaching students the importance of education, and creating a learning environment that provides an opportunity for students to become independent educators and critical thinkers, which are important not only in the classroom but also for the students’ future careers. From my previous experience as a teacher and as a student, students engage more in the class if they want to learn more about the topic. My teaching philosophy is based on a strong belief in student engagement and participation. My responsibility is to engage the students; theirs is to participate. Effective teaching requires teacher-student two-way interactions. As a teacher, I do not just provide information to students but also care about their progress in the class. Students should not just memorize information without thinking. To stimulate students’ engagement and participation, I try to relate class materials to their previous experiences and their future goals. In addition, I encourage students to ask questions. Answering students’ questions is easy; however, I ask students to give their opinion or their thoughts first. I understand that some students may not have the courage to ask questions during class. I assign students to write a short summary of each topic and students can write down their questions with their own thoughts or opinions. This method helps students to understand their strengths and weaknesses in the class, and also helps me to improve future classes. It helps me to be flexible and change future lesson plans to meet students’ needs. I also believe in the importance of repeated exposure to a subject. In applied science, particularly in environmental health, students must apply fundamental scientific principles to solve complicated environmental health issues. Thus, I need to help students to develop a solid understanding of the basic principles during their earlier years in college (in lower-level courses) and to train them to apply their knowledge in the real world (in upper-level and graduate-level courses). From my experience in teaching both laboratory (application-based) and lecture (factbased) classes, asking the students to explain background information related to the topic at the beginning of class subsequently increased students’ understandings in the applied topic. Examples of my teaching strategy: 1. Encourage students to prepare: At the end of the class, I give brief outline for the next lecture as well as reading assignments on the syllabus. I also post real life stories, news, and/or scenarios relating to the topic prior to the lecture. 2. Enhance students’ understanding: Repeated exposures to the subject increase students’ learning ability. Thus, I repeat the topic or important points multiple times during the lecture and recall them during the later lectures. However, I do not simply repeat the same thing – I will add details and expand the topic at every repetition. 3. Make students think: I post several questions during the lecture and give students several minutes to think and discuss their answers with classmates. In upper level classes, I assign a “creative” term project. Students can find their own class-related topic and present findings. 4. Require students to review and encourage collaborate: I ask students to prepare a short summary of each lecture or each topic after class. In addition, I encourage students to form study groups that allow students to work together for homework and preparation for exams. It is very important to teach students that “learning” is their own responsibility; students must be actively involved in their own learning. The teacher’s responsibility is providing a good environment for students to enhance their learning through various presentation methods, such as discussion, hand-on activities, and lectures. In the end, why is teaching important to me? I believe teaching is the best way to increase my own knowledge – not only from class preparation, but also from student feedback. In addition, teaching always provides me an opportunity to re-evaluate myself, including my presentation and communication skills. For me, teaching is an essential part of my own life-long learning.